Bytes For All condemns social media suspension across Pakistan

This statement was originally published on on 16 April 2021.

Bytes For All strongly condemns the arbitrary suspension of various social media platforms in Pakistan on Friday. As per a notification by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), on the directions of the Ministry of Interior, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp and Telegram are being blocked during 11am to 3pm to counter the protests from the members and allies of a religious group.

Bytes For All believes that blocking and filtering the internet is not a real solution ‘to maintain public order and safety’. Pakistan is a democracy and it is only the rule of law that enables a safe and secure environment for public life. We are also concerned that media censorship and internet blocking of the protests is setting a dangerous trend for the flourishing democratic principles in the country.

Internet shutdowns and denying citizens access to communication and information infrastructure is a serious violation of fundamental human rights. Suspension of mobile cellular services and/or internet services inevitably leads to the violation of some of the most important fundamental rights of the citizens of Pakistan, including the right to information, the right to freedom of speech and the right to freedom of assembly, guaranteed under Articles 19A, 19 and 16 of the Constitution of Pakistan, respectively. It is the constitutional responsibility of the federal government to uphold these fundamental rights and establish the writ by strengthening rule of law in the country. Suspension of social media platforms is also a violation of Pakistan’s international human rights commitments, which unnecessarily brings a bad name to the country.

We urge the authorities to refrain from such arbitrary actions of censorship and communication black-outs as they are against the norms of democracy and do not serve any purpose with regards to maintaining public order and safety at any level. Mass censorship is not a solution, it is a problem itself.

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Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) is a network of human rights journalists in Uganda working towards enhancing the promotion, protection and respect of human rights through defending and building the capacities of journalists, to effectively exercise their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms for collective campaigning through the media.

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